Marion Barry is one of the most legendary and notorious figures in modern American politics. Barry served as a Washington, D.C. Councilman, then Mayor from 1979-1991. It was during Barry’s third term that he was infamously arrested for crack use and possession, which also inspired one of the most infamous utterances in the history of American politics. Barry served time in prison before being reelected to Council, then Mayor, and then Council again.
Councilman Barry is on Twitter, and recent became controversial once again after a tweet that attacked the city’s police department. Barry was involved in a car accident two weeks ago, when he crashed his car after “taking medication on an empty stomach.” On Twitter, he said:
This was all relatively standard stuff. But the entire incident took a turn for the weird when Barry sent out this tweet:
So instead of protecting people, I’m advised that @DCPoliceDept called news media to come film my hypoglycemic attack & accident? Sad.
This tweet was sent out on August 4, but deleted the same day. Councilman Barry retracted the tweets, saying:
What really happened here? Who knows. I will say that earlier tweet’s on Barry’s account did indicate that others tweeted on his behalf, with tweets from the account saying things like “MB’s tweet team” and referring to “our Councilmember.” It is absolutely possible that a member of Barry’s communication’s team got fired up over a perceived or real slight by police, then sent out an ill-advised tweet.
Here are the takeaways on this, as far as I am concerned:
1) Make sure your team knows conduct that is and is not acceptable on social media. For the sake of leaving things as clear as possible, as well as covering yourself in the event that something goes wrong, a written policy is absolutely preferable.
2) Keep a consistent voice. Other tweets on Barry’s account sound like they are coming from him directly, which would contrast with tweets which make it clear that they are authored by team members, not Barry himself. There is a way to jointly manage an account like this: Just add “Tweets from Councilman Barry are signed -MB.” Consistency and transparency are key on social media.
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